WASHINGTON — The Army has installed a fuel cell system at its Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland to supply the facility with emergency backup power. The four-stack system is one of the first of 18 fuel cells to be installed and operated at military bases across the country under an interagency partnership between the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). Under the partnership, the departments will test how the fuel cells perform in real-world operations, identify technical improvements manufacturers can make to enhance performance, and highlight the benefits of fuel cells for emergency backup power applications.

Compared with batteries, said DOE, fuel cells are a reliable source of backup power because they offer long continuous run times and greater durability in harsh outdoor environments, which makes them ideal power sources for military applications. Unlike traditional electricity generators used for backup power, fuel cells use no petroleum and are quieter. And, they reduce emissions compared to traditional generators. Fuel cells also typically require less maintenance than either batteries or traditional generators do, and they can easily be monitored remotely to reduce maintenance time.

Aberdeen Proving Ground will also install three 5-kW fuel cells to provide critical backup power to its Range Control and Coordination Building, and an 8-kW fuel cell to provide backup power to the Snow Emergency building. Seven other military installations will install emergency fuel cell backup power under the memorandum of understanding signed by DOE and DOD. The Defense Department will manage the $6.6 million project, and DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory will collect performance data for the first two years of this five-year demonstration, making the data available to fuel cell developers and commercial and government leaders interested in adopting this technology.

Publication date: 12/26/2011